With more high-profile building developers committing to increase the number of net-zero carbon projects in their portfolio, what are those of us in the project supply chain doing to reduce on and off-site environmental impacts?
A report published by the United Nations Environment Programme revealed that in 2019, the construction industry accounted for more than a third (38%) of the world’s energy-related CO2 emissions. It begs the question that whilst much focus has been trained on the energy efficiency of properties being built, has enough attention been paid to the sustainable aspect of the construction process itself?
For a number of years, we at BriggsAmasco have worked hard to implement green strategies across all strands of our service offering. It’s culminated in our latest initiative – with which we aim to work alongside our clients to achieve net-zero carbon status by 2040. It’s a huge undertaking, but one that we believe is absolutely achievable, and crucial for the creation of a more sustainable, less-polluted built environment for future generations to enjoy.
A net-zero carbon strategy involves reducing CO2 output whilst ethically offsetting emissions which are produced. It’s a more practical way for large construction companies – many of whom have pledged to commit to the strategy – to achieve their ultimate carbon-zero aim.
The initial stage of our net-zero carbon strategy involves looking at how we can make the company’s plant equipment – our hot melt mixers in particular – more eco-friendly. We estimate that converting the mixers from propane gas to electric will lead to a 70% reduction in emissions, the majority of which are expended in heating the hot melt from cold to an ambient temperature.
The challenge in transferring to an electric-only fleet will be ensuring sites have a high enough kilowattage capability to enable their use. This can be overcome by working with stakeholders such as the main contractor to ensure appropriate facilities are provided. We have procured a number of electric hot melt machines which are already operative. As word of their environmental benefit spreads, it’s likely their use will widen throughout the construction industry.
Small amendments can make a huge difference to achieving long-term sustainable goals
Our new environment and sustainability officer is currently looking at ways in which the company can reduce its on and offsite water usage. Waste water is another challenge: how can we make the best use of it? This has become something of an industry issue. Many homes use water butts to recycle rainwater, but few big businesses employ such methods it would seem. But in terms of reducing carbon footprints and operating more sustainably, comparatively small actions like this can make a positive difference. As a roofing company, the work BriggsAmasco carries out is not so water-intensive, but I would hope main building contractors have water-saving initiatives in mind to reduce their usage.
We are also currently focused on sourcing alternative fuels for plant equipment. Many building firms have switched to white fuel as a more environmentally-friendly alternative to the red variety, which was banned for construction site usage as part of government reforms announced in last year’s budget. But at BriggsAmasco, we’d rather not use traditional fuels at all. Therefore, we’ve been liaising with our plant suppliers to see if Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) can be used to power their machinery.
Additionally, we’re looking to reduce what we’re using in terms of gas; hence we’re hoping to trial biopropane instead of propane fuel in equipment used on site. A single biopropane canister saves a minimum of 50% emissions compared to a propane canister which amounts to a big reduction in environmental impact if replicated on a large scale. However, few companies produce biopropane in canister form, which will hopefully change once demand increases and people become more aware of its benefits.
Reducing waste packaging is also part of our plan for greater sustainability. It’s vital to keeping materials safe in transit, therefore limiting its use presents a challenge. But there are environmentally-friendly ways of disposing of it. To this end we are considering a pallet loop scheme that allows companies to arrange to have used pallets collected from site and taken to one of a number of UK hubs where they will be repaired and reused.
BriggsAmasco is also looking to introduce a non-idling policy as part of its on-site practice to reduce emissions. Machines that are left running without being used not only waste money, they release avoidable, harmful emissions into the atmosphere (up to 250kgCO2 per machine, per week). These impacts are beginning to be noted, with an increasing number of main contractors now implementing a non-idling policy onsite.
As stated, there is no magic wand when it comes to solving the on-off building site emissions issues. Rather it’s a case of constructing a well-planned, well-executed environmental policy. It will likely include implanting lots of seemingly minor amendments to working behaviours and methods for a greater good: a high-quality, more sustainable built environment for future generations to enjoy.
BriggsAmasco Sustainability Manager